JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 19: Orlando Pirates new coach Vladimir Vermezovic and Daine Klate during the Orlando Pirates press conference at the PSL Headquarters in Parktown on March 19, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Vladimir Vermezovic and Daine Klate both claim physical exhaustion is taking its toll on Orlando Pirates as they head into the Nedbank Cup last 16 clash with Santos in Cape Town.

The Nedbank Cup represents the last realistic shot at silverware this season for Bucs, with last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Kaizer Chiefs and this week’s 1-1 draw with Mpumalanga Black Aces, leaving catching Amakhosi at the top of the Absa Premiership highly unlikely.

Pirates have played 41 games, having reached the final of the MTN8, the Telkom Knockout and the African Champions League.

Veremzovic has only taken charge for the last three matches, but he says it is clear that tiredness is affecting his players.

“I think the biggest problem is that they are so tired,” he said.

“In the last two seasons they played (almost) 100 games, and you can see that in our squad. Sometimes I have got the sensation that they are waiting for the end of the season, that for them it is enough. But as professionals we have to deal with the situation. We have played too many games, but we will try to get there.”

Winger Klate, who must wait to see if he recovers from a knee injury in time to face Santos, also pointed to his side’s weary legs.

“The guys are really tired. They are trying, but their bodies are just not there,” he said. “Santos will come out prepared and they will run for their lives. If we can match them in effort and intensity, and get our minds right, we should get the better of them because we have the quality.”

Klate also admitted that Pirates had suffered psychologically from losing all three cup finals they have played this season.

Platinum Stars took the Buccaneers down in the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout finals, while Al-Ahly were too good for them in the Champions League final.

“Maybe it has affected us going forward, the fact that we have been to three cup finals and not won,” said Klate. “Maybe we have not looked into it enough. It is only natural, it is the price you pay for winning six trophies in two seasons (Pirates did league and cup trebles in 2010/11 and 2011/12), people expect you to raise the bar constantly. I think psychologically there is a lot of damage as the players are going on to the field and don’t want to lose, instead of playing with a winning mentality.

“In the last round against Thanda, we huffed and puffed and got through and it could be the confidence-booster we needed (Pirates came back from 2-0 down, with two goals in stoppage time, and won on penalties after a 3-3 draw). Maybe winning from 2-0 down can push us through to win the cup, we will definitely go for it, we would like to grab one cup and make people smile and get over our fear of losing cup finals again.”

Vermezovic is hopeful he can be the man to help break the Buccaneers cup final hoodoo in the Nedbank Cup.

“Pirates have reached three finals and unfortunately lost all three and I hope for the fourth one,” he said.

“They already know how to get there (to the final), and maybe I will be the one to help them make the final step.

But first up for Pirates is a tricky trip to Cape Town, a city where they have not always fared too well.

“It won’t be easy tomorrow, because when teams play Pirates they always give more than 100 percent.

“But we also have enough quality to come back with a positive result,” said Vermezovic. - Pretoria News